Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Southern Cuisine for May

 


You are ready to try a new dish. You went to the market and bought the freshest items you could find, and they were from a local farm. You get home and open the cookbook and the instructions are as complicated as the startup guide to your weather radio. You cannot plug it in and hope it knows where you live and which NOAA radio station covers your area.

There is food you should not be eating if the instructions are as simple as "Heat and serve”. Likewise, if they are too complicated the "joy of cooking" is gone. There are recipes that tell you what knife, pan, tray, or container to use to make that dish. The recipes may say "using a chef's knife...” or "carefully place vegetable in deep pan” or "place in steamer for 5 minutes". Vague instructions and what if you do not have a steamer and just what is a chef's knife.

Just as in most professions, there are tools of the trade. Moreover, as one becomes more proficient in their trade, they may need tools that are more specialized. If you believe the advertisements on TV cooking shows that say you cannot in your right mind try to cook your food unless you buy this "upgraded, self-sautéing, self-cleaning, copper clad, organic, non GMO, ceramic coated, left-handed widget." But wait, if you buy one before this show ends, you can get a second one free, just pay separate postage and handling!

I have written about the ingredients of the recipes but have not spent much time on the tools needed in the kitchen to cook those ingredients. The recipes listed here and not simple and quick recipes. They will require many utensils and certain appliances. I have to admit that I have utensils in my kitchen that I have not used in a long time. Nevertheless, I keep telling myself that I will need it sometime in the future, and I think I know about where it is. The website, Country Living, Feb 16, 2017, article has a list of 25 Vintage Kitchen Tools You Don't See Anymore. I have 13 gadgets on the list and have only used 11 within the last six months. I have a large deep oval ceramic French roasting pot that is stuffed with over 60 different spoons, spatulas, strainers, presses, tongs, whisks, ladles, mashers and a set of Graham Kerr's, The Galloping Gourmet, wooden cooking tools! If there is someone that can talk about items you do not need in the kitchen, I am the one.

The first instruction in a recipe is usually to slice, cut, chiffonade, or pare something. I have twelve paring style knives and eleven chef's knives or slicers of some sort. You can get by with three, an eight to ten inch chef's knife or an Asian style knife such as a Santoku, a three-inch paring knife and a serrated bread knife. My suggestion is do not buy a complete set of different knives from one manufacturer. One knife in the set may be a great knife but the others may be of lesser quality. As you progress in your skills and needs, then kitchen shears or a long slicer should be your next purchase.

The knives I use the most are chef's knives and a Santoku that I purchased at a membership warehouse store. They are for commercial kitchen use and they each came in a two pack. No worries about cutting your hand fishing for your knives in a sink of soapy water; these are dishwasher-safe.

Other sharp things that you may need include a cheese grater. I have a large stand-up triangle grater with a knob on top to hold. In addition, a smaller one that fits across the month of a bowl and a smaller hand held grater and hand held rasps, used for hard cheese and hard chocolate. The large grater will cover most of your needs.

Peelers are handy to have unless you want to peel with your paring knife. My chef once told me that I was taking too much time using a peeler and should use a paring knife to peel potatoes. We had a race, I used my peeler, and the chef used his paring knife. I was not as fast as the chef with a paring knife was but I had more potato by weight when I got through using a peeler. More usable product meant less food cost, meant I could still use my peeler.

Let us say the next instruction in the recipe is to sauté vegetables for three minutes. Do you have a sauté pan? Do you need a sauté pan? In Alton Brown's Gear for the Kitchen, seven pots, and pans covers just about any cooking situation you find yourself. His list includes, a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, 10-inch stainless-steel frying pan, 8-inch non-stick aluminum frying pan, 8- to 12-inch sauté pan, 3- to 4-quart saucepan with lid, 8- to 12-quart stockpot with lid, 5-quart Dutch oven with lid .

However, you also cook in glass and ceramic casserole dishes, metal baking pans and sheet pans and muffin tins. Buy these as needed and should be limited in how many you buy, because just like pots and pans, they take up a lot of room.

Buying pots and frying pans and baking pans can be daunting trying to decide on the type of metal of the pans, how deep, with or without end handles, and are the handles oven safe. A few short rules will help in your selection: season your new cast iron pan and keep it seasoned, it will last you a lifetime, other pans should have a fairly thick bottom, to keep from burning your food. If you buy anodized aluminum, which is a good choice, never ever put it in the dishwasher.

Follow these steps to season your cast iron pan(s) and they will be your favorite cooking vessels.

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees

2. If the piece is new, soak it in hot soapy water for 5 minutes, then wash and let air dry. If you are re-seasoning an old piece, skip this step.

3. Place a sheet pan with a lip or a large disposable foil roaster on the bottom rack of the oven.

4. Place the cast iron on the middle rack. Place a tablespoon of vegetable shortening in the center of each piece.

5. When the cast iron is warm enough to melt the shortening but not too hot to handle, remove from the oven, and rub the shortening all over the pan including the outside, bottom, and handles using a paper towel.

6. Place the cast iron back in the oven, upside DOWN. You do not want the oil to pool in the bottom of the pan.

7. Turn the oven off after one hour and allow the cast iron to cure in the oven until cool.

8. When the cast iron is cool enough to touch, wipe off any excess fat and store.

Your recipe may ask you to puree or process something. This will require something you plug in. This list can get long and expensive. If you are planning to do much baking, a stand mixer is a necessary have. Otherwise, a hand mixer will handle most occasions. If you like smoothies and margaritas, get a blender and if you have a drip coffee maker get a blade-style coffee grinder. Other appliances to consider:

Toaster oven, Immersion blender, Griddle, Food processor

Automatic coffee maker.

Do not buy a waffle iron unless the plates are reversible and machine washable and nonstick.

And no home would be complete without a Crock Pot.

So your recipe says to cut something up and you have your knives. You mixed the ingredients with your mixers or blenders and cooked it in your pans. Now if you have a large deep oval ceramic French roasting pot that is stuffed with over 60 different spoons, spatulas, strainers, presses, tongs, whisks, ladles, mashers and a set of Graham Kerr's, The Galloping Gourmet, wooden cooking tools you have a fairly well equipped kitchen. Except for few thermometers, Scale, Rolling pins, Flour sifter, Can opener, Juicer, Salad spinner and Fire extinguisher.

Maybe a few others items I forgot.

Here is a recipe that uses at least fourteen items that you should have in your kitchen. It is a waffle recipe that uses real ingredients, like eggs, flour, whole milk, and sour cream. It is not a frozen waffle. If you insist on using the toaster, make up a batch, freeze them, and then put in the toaster the next time you want waffles. The extra work to make these is worth it.

PECAN SOUR CREAM WAFFLES

INGREDIENTS

1-cup whole of half pecans

1-cup whole milk

1-cup sour cream

Two large eggs

3-tablespoons butter melted

1-teaspoon vanilla extract

One and one half cups all-purpose flour

2-teaspoons baking powder

1-teaspoon baking soda

½-teaspoon cinnamon

½-teaspoon kosher salt

Non-stick vegetable spray

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Toast pecans in oven on sheet pan. Shake the pan once or twice to brown the pecans evenly. Roast no longer than six minutes.

3. Chop pecans into the size Grape Nut nuggets.

4. Preheat waffle iron.

5. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, sour cream, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Into a second large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and form a well in the center of the dry mixture.

6. Add the wet mixture to the well and fold it into the dry mixture with a rubber spatula.

7. Do not over-mix. The batter will be lumpy. Stir in the pecans just before cooking the waffles.

8. Lightly spray the plates of waffle iron and use about ½ to ¾ cup batter or more per waffle depending on size of your waffle iron.

9. Cook about seven to 10 minutes or until golden brown crust appears.

10. Remove with fork, place on dinner plate, and if your oven is still warm from roasting your pecans store the batches there until you are finished cooking.

Serve warm. Yield: 6 to 8 waffles

Remember that waffles are not just for breakfast. Chicken and Waffles, Waffle Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Chili and Waffles, Monte Cristo Waffle Sandwich, Maple Bacon Waffle Bread Pudding, and Waffle Pizza come right in mind.

We have used the waffle iron, and various other utensils, so let us get some practice with the cast iron skillet.

Read this recipe thoroughly before starting, prep time is at least 24 hours.

SOUTHERN FRIED CHICKEN SALAD WITH HONEY MUSTARD DRESSING

INGREDIENTS

For the Chicken:

¼-teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼-teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

¼-teaspoon dry mustard

¼-teaspoon chili powder

Four boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 cups buttermilk

2 teaspoons kosher salt

One and one-quarter cups canola oil

2 cups all-purpose flour

For the Salad:

Two hearts romaine lettuce cut into bite size pieces

One red bell pepper cored seeded and slice thin

½ red onion sliced thin

For the Dressing

5 tablespoons honey

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

Two tablespoons rice wine vinegar

METHOD

1. Cut the chicken breasts into strips and place in large zip lock bag with spice mixture.

2. Add buttermilk and seal while removing as much air as possible. Refrigerate 24 hours.

3. Place the honey, mustard, and vinegar in a small stainless steel bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.

4. Place lettuce, red pepper, and red onion in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

5. In a 12-inch cast-iron skillet, warm the oil to 350 degrees over medium heat.

6. Remove chicken from refrigerator, add salt to the bag, and shake to combine.

7. Pour flour into a 9 x 13-inch metal pan.

8. Using tongs remove chicken from bag and dredge it in the flour.

9. Then place the chicken in the skillet and only turning once cook until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

10. Remove chicken and place on cooling rack placed over paper towels.

11. When chicken has cooled, chop it into bite-size pieces and place chicken in bowl with salad, add the dressing and toss with salad tongs.

12. Transfer to large bowl and serve.

You could top your waffle with your salad for a hearty meal.

Remember that kitchen gadgets multiply like coat hangers. After a while, what started as a few gadgets will start taking over drawers, storage tubs, and large deep oval ceramic French roasting pots!

Recipes and lists adapted from Alton Brown’s Gear For Your Kitchen, 2003

 

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